An Integrated Framework for Ecological Drought Across Riverscapes of North America

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Climate change is increasing extreme droughts events, posing a threat to freshwater ecosystems, particularly with human demands for diminishing water supplies. 

Despite the importance of drought as a significant driver of ecological and evolutionary dynamics, current understanding of drought consequences for freshwater biodiversity is very limited. USGS scientists across the Ecosystems and Water Mission Areas describe key barriers that hinder integrative drought research and monitoring across riverscapes – from the headwaters of a river to where it meets the sea. The primary constraint limiting understanding of ecological drought is an existing monitoring framework focused on human water consumption and flood risk in mainstem rivers. This approach is misaligned with needs for research and data collection that illuminate exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity (i.e., vulnerability) of biota to drought across entire riverscapes. A hierarchical framework for integrated ecological drought monitoring and research is presented that addresses drought vulnerability.
 

Kovach, R.P., Dunham, J.B., Al-Chokhachy, R., Snyder, C., Letcher, B.H., Young, J.A., Beever, E.A., Pederson, G.T., Lynch, A.J., Hitt, N.P., Konrad, C.P., Jaeger, K.L., Rea, A.H., Sepulveda, A.J., Lambert, P.M., Stoker, J., Giersch, J.J., Muhlfeld, C.C., 2019, An integrated framework for ecological drought across riverscapes of North America: BioScience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz040.